Debbie had large spaces between her top teeth on the sides of her mouth
The first thing you notice about this young woman is her smile. It's big, wide, and bright, with perfect, pearly-white teeth. But her smile wasn't always so perfect.
"I had enormous spaces between my top teeth on each side of my mouth, and smaller spaces between my bottom teeth," says 28-year-old Debbie Andrew. "They were so big I could stick my tongue through them." As a child, Debbie, who grew up in Grenada, was not self-conscious about her teeth. "Fixing my teeth was not an issue with me back then," she recalls. "I wasn't aware that my teeth were any different than anyone else's."
Debbie and her family relocated to New Jersey in 1984. As a teenager, the spaces between her teeth began to bother her. However, having them fixed wasn't a priority. "I'm basically a cheerful person, so my teeth never prevented me from smiling or laughing," she says. "But I didn't like the way I looked."
In 1995, Debbie graduated from Seton Hall Law School, went to work at a legal services firm, and decided that the time was right for braces. "I'm frequently in court, or meeting with clients and other attorneys," says Debbie. "I didn't want to feel self-conscious every time I opened my mouth."
One of Debbie's law professors had been a patient at the UMDNJ-New Jersey Dental School (NJDS) orthodontic clinic, and referred her there for treatment. In May, 1995, braces were put on Debbie's teeth. The orthodontists believed her condition was caused by tongue-thrusting (pushing the tongue forward), a common habit in children. Because her teeth were straight and in good condition, treatment was relatively uncomplicated, but was spread out over a two-year period because of her busy work schedule.
Debbie's braces were removed in May, 1997. She wears a retainer several nights a week, and will probably need it for the rest of her life because her tongue still pushes forward. "If I don't wear my retainer for a few days, I can see my teeth begin to move," she comments.
"I am really happy with my new smile," Debbie continues. "Having my teeth fixed has made a world of difference in my overall appearance."